Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flores and a Jungle Trek

Unfortunately when we woke up on Tuesday morning for our jungle trek, it was pouring rain outside. We were able to delay our reservation until the afternoon, allowing us to relax and grab some lunch while we waited for the rain to clear.

We met up with Adam and Dave (the SF boys) and after a short shuttle, we arrived at Ixpanpajul. The boys wanted to do zip lines, while Eva and I were more interested in the Skywalk above the canopy, so we parted ways – but not before taking a picture!

Here are Eva and I, feet still planted firmly on the ground:

That didn’t last for long though, we hiked our way up a long narrow path that lead to a series of swinging bridges that allowed us to walk over the treetops and catch the view of the jungle below:

Unfortunately, due to the rain we didn’t see much for wildlife – only a few birds – which was a bummer.

At the midpoint of the trek there was a shelter that had a great view of the jungle.

We reached it just as it started to pour again, allowing us to weather out the storm relaxing in hammocks.

When we met Adam and Dave at the end, they were covered head to toe in mud but had also enjoyed their experience despite the rain.

We spent out last night in Flores eating dinner with a lake view and enjoying some local brews.

Today we caught a flight back to Guatemala City, followed by a 45 minute taxi ride to the beautiful city of Antigua. We’ll be exploring the city, celebrating New Year’s, and climbing a volcano in the next few days but more on that later!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Flores and Tikal

Our flight on the “teeny tiny” plane from Guatemala City to Flores turned out to be nicer and almost bigger than any of the flights we took in the United States. We arrived in a quick 25 minutes (beats the 10 hour bus trip!) and caught the tourist shuttle to Casa Blanca, our hotel in Flores. Our “white house” actually turned out to be more of a dirty yellow color, but for $4 a night, who’s complaining!?

We left on the bus (more like a 16 passenger van) to Tikal, the famous Mayan pyramids located deep in the jungle. It was a ninety minute ride followed by hours of walking to explore all the different sites.

One of the first creatures we saw on our trek was some strange species of anteater rooting around in the dirt:

We also saw the ants he was hunting for marching along:

We took a little swing on some hanging vines:

As always, we stayed out of trouble!

Tourists are allowed to climb many of the Mayan pyramids. We climbed to the top of Templo IV, known for its amazing view of the jungle canopy. We could even see Belize!

Some of the temples, like Templo V, had very long climb!

However, it was worth it for the view of Templo IV and others through the treetops:

The Guatemalan turkeys look a lot like peacocks:

The finale of the trek was the Gran Plaza, once used for ceremonies and sacrifices. It was surrounded by two huge temples, a palace and an acropolis.

We had great weather the entire day except for a ten minute torrential downpour which we unsuccessfully attempted to escape by hiding under a thick tree.

On the bus ride home, we met two American boys on holiday from San Francisco. We talked to them about their adventures in Belize and the four of us have booked a jungle trek for tomorrow!

Tonight we’re relaxing and headed out for some “research” on locally available beers.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

We've Arrived!

After hours and hours of travel, and three flights, all of which were significantly delayed due to weather, Eva and I are officially in Guatemala!  The trip itself was fairly uneventful, highlights included talking to a man who has been stranded at O'Hare for three days due to a cancelled flight, the standby list being 60 passengers long for our first flight to Atlanta (thank goodness we had a reservation!), and seeing this little monkey get pulled around in style by his parents-
I wish I had a better picture that captured the glee on his face, he was on our first two flights so we kept running into him sprawled out on his dad's carry-on.

Eva was also super excited about her purchase of a neck pillow.  So excited she insisted on wearing it while boarding the flight.  I was embarrassed but decided it was best to let her have her fun....and document it in a photo that will live on for years.

Another highlight was the stewardess on our first flight.  She looked at me like I had a third head when I asked if I could reuse my plastic cup during the beverage service.  She then said something about how adorable I was but that this was unacceptable practice.  I then had to toss my cup into the trash and get a new one when I wanted a refill.  Thanks American Airlines, glad to know you love the environment as much as we do.
We did manage to get an upgrade for our last flight to Guatemala City.  Helloooo first class living!  It was a fun experience but honestly wasn't the luxury we were hoping for.  What do you mean we shouldn't have expected massages and caviar on our two hour flight?  Instead we settled for barely edible "whitefish" and some roasted potatoes.  The highlight was mini bottles of liquor for an after dinner treat....oh, and some champagne to welcome us aboard.  We stashed some mini bottles of Bailey's in our purses which ended up coming in handy later for bribing a guy at the airport for helping us find a cheap taxi to our hotel.  Ah, commerce at its finest.
Now, we're spending the night at El Aeropuerto Guest House, aptly named for its close proximity to the Airport.  Honestly we probably should have held onto the Bailey's and walked, it's that close.
Tomorrow we'll head back to the airport to catch a flight on TACA airlines to Flores.  The ticket was $210 roundtrip but saved us a 10 hour bus ride each way so we figured it was worth the expense.  Flores is the closest city to the Mayan ruins of Tikal.

It's supposed to be 75 degrees here tomorrow!  I'm going for my first run outside in shorts in what feels like forever.  Hooray for escaping Wisconsin winter for three weeks!  And wearing flip flops again!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Guatemalan Adventure!

Eva and I are off on our next bout of traveling in....six hours or so! Nothing like waiting until the last minute to do the ol' blog update! This time we'll both be spending our first time in Central Guatemala!!!

We don't really have a set itinerary, however we do know we'll be:
  • Landing in Guatemala City tomorrow night
  • Catching a flight to Flores in the morning to spend a few days seeing the Mayan ruins of Tikal
  • Celebrating the New Year in the beautiful city of Antigua
  • Checking out the beach and a turtle reservation in Monterrico
  • Exploring the deepest lake in Central America, Lake Atitlán and the cities that surround it
  • And whatever else we can fit in in the two weeks that Eva will be there!
After Eva leaves, I'll be staying in Lake Atitlán in the city of Santiago Atitlán where my friend Erich will be flying down and joining me for some volunteering/learning time in a local clinic, Hospitalito Atitlán.

In addition to learning about healthcare in Guatemala and helping out wherever we can, Erich and I also hope to rent mountain bikes, do a lot of trail running, and of course some hiking of the volcanoes that surround the clinic.

I'll be back in the States just in time for class on January 17th!